STORY BY COLE NORUM
A new Drake University organization is in the works to confront the troubling presence of sexual assault within Greek life communities.
Helmed by sophomore Gabrielle Landes and junior Justin Dwyer, the yet unnamed organization is intended to prevent violence and raise awareness amongst members of Drake University’s fraternities and sororities.
“If you look in the national news you see a lot of Greek life being put in the crosshairs, as it should be,” Dwyer, president of Sigma Phi Epsilon, said.
The scrutinizing attention placed on Greek communities, which Landes described as a “stigma,” has permeated the conversation at Drake. This is a sobering reality for a community often championed as approaching and operating Greek life in ways dissimilar to other institutions.
“I think there’s an aura around Drake’s Greek life that we’re different … we’re 30 percent of campus,” Dwyer said. “We’re very active in just about every organization, especially a lot of leadership positions, but that doesn’t mean we’re invincible to (sexual violence) behavior.”
That very behavior served as the impetus for Landes, a member of Alpha Phi, to approach Dwyer with the idea for an organization.
Landes witnessed a friend attempt to navigate the trauma and far-reaching effects of sexual assault.
“She went to Drake and launched an investigation and it came out that (the suspect) was found guilty,” Landes said. “But all he had to do was write a paper about how he was sorry.”
Landes’s friend ended up transferring, having grown uncomfortable from the assault.
“That struck a chord with me that something needed to be done on this campus, and it needed to come from the students,” Landes said. “If the students start holding themselves accountable for their actions, then we can hold the university accountable.”
Drake is under federal investigation since October 2014 after a complaint was filed to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
In an email notifying the Drake community of the complaint, which was filed by a student following the university’s resolution of a case, Drake University President David Maxwell was sure to note a no-toleration stance.
“Let me be clear,” Maxwell said. “Sexual violence of any kind is unacceptable and will not be tolerated at Drake University.”
A very similar phrasing of those words is in bold on the first web page of the Office for Sexual Violence Response and Healthy Relationship Promotion, under the heading “What you need to know about sexual assault.” Yet on that page there is no indication of what, exactly, the punishment is for sexual assault.
“It’s really difficult to get familiar with Drake’s policy,” Dwyer said, In addition to seeking official recognition for their organization, Dwyer and Landes have planned a seminar to better explore the policies of the university as well as promoting an overall unequivocal stance of no-toleration.
Recognizing that sexual assault is prevalent in the Greek community is most important, Dwyer said.
“Sometimes, you have to admit that as an organization, you have an issue,” Dwyer said. “I think more people are going to approach the Greek community when they know we’re actively taking a stance against (sexual assault) and trying to fight it.”